I belong to a creative group on Facebook – The Crazy Ones. Folks who create in all sorts of ways – writing, photography, cookies (yep!), fabric, digital collage, animation, painting, drawing, cheese-making (and the list goes on). We create, support each other, inspire each other.. and occasionally we do fun stuff that allows those of us who lean toward the introverted side of the spectrum to participate in a group activity, separately and from our own homes. How cool is that?!
The latest idea was to create a sort of on-line exhibition based on the cliché Halloween-ish story intro, “It was a dark and stormy night…” From there, anything creative pretty much goes. The following is a short story. Did I mention I don’t ‘do’ fiction? I thought I’d post it here for fun, it being the Halloween seasons and all :))
It was a dark and stormy night.
I know, it sounds cliché.
And, in a way, it was.
All Hollow’s Eve not only ensnared the outside world in nearly opaque shadow, but managed to alchemize wind and water into a meteorological tempest that roared and whistled a cacophony of creeks and cracks and damage and bumps in the night.
The rain seemed to choose its own direction, sometimes pelting my windows straight on, and others – spot lit by jagged blasts of lightening – blown sideways in torrents.
Inside it was warm… soft lamplight, a fire in the fireplace. By the door, a mixture of miniature Kit Kats, Krackles, and Hershey Bars heaped in a black plastic, bat-themed bowl.
I’d already removed the Butterfingers to the kitchen drawer.
I knew early on that the storm pretty much guaranteed an absence of extortion-driven ghosts ghouls and goblins. And, as time ticked by, closer and closer to our village’s imposed eight o’clock ending of trick-or-treating, I found myself visiting the sidelight windows of my ancient front door.
Being so far off of the street, I am guaranteed far fewer blackmailers than the houses right along the road. Those little suckers need to focus on bang for the buck – or loot. I got the picture. But it didn’t stop me, each year, from willing just few princesses or Spidermen or throwback Star Wars heroes to my porch.
Every year I bought far too much candy – and good stuff, too – giving away handfuls at a time, hoping that my reputation would spread through the elementary and middle school cafeterias and halls, and one year I would be inundated – my haunting decorations and spooky playlist lauded by small be-costumed humans as ‘awesome’.
Even though it was now just me, I still decorated.
I probably always would.
With each check of the windows, what greeted me in the dim light cast by strands of orange and purple twinkle lights, was a sheer curtain of rain blowing wildly in front of a screaming black mouth of night.
And, suddenly, there was no orange, no purple.
And no other light either, save the shadow of the fire dancing on the walls inside.
My Bluetooth speaker being wireless and having a backup battery, I was alone with my iPhone playlist.
The theme from The Exorcist, the fire-licked dark, and me.
I made my way through a nearly pitch-black kitchen, flashes of lightening intermittently showing me I was following the right path around the table and counters. I rummaged through the junk drawer for the flashlight, and then used that to locate the candles in the pantry cupboard.
Time Warp was playing as I place the candles into their holders and lit them, placing them here and there on the countertop, kitchen table, and the wobbly bookcase in the living room.
Just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
With your hands on your hips
You bring your knees in ti-i-ight…
I was singing a little, making the sign of insanity with my fingers twirling by my temples when the time came… and then there was this massive flash…
Accompanied, not followed, by seconds of crackling, and a terrific boom.
And then a cry.
And I froze.
I was alone.
For more than two years, and for the first time in my entire life, I’d been living alone.
Three years without another person.
Two without without a dog.
I’d gotten used to it, settled into it.
My own, private, oppositional and stubborn response to the universe and powers that be.
After losing Tim – my childhood sweetheart, my love, my heart, my soul – in the accident, I was not ready – might not ever be ready…
And then with Smudge was diagnosed with cancer, terminal, six months later… my big, furry pillow… part lab, part who knows what … with a ruff that welcomed and held all my tears and fears and pain…
I worked, I went grocery shopping. I smiled and nodded and became an expert at implying I could not accept invitations to dinner or a movie or shopping or anywhere else because I was so busy not being alone.
At first uncomfortable and scratchy, alone was now the softest blanket I had.
Another chest thumping kaBOOM!
Silence mixed with the sound of pouring rain.
And another cry.
I picked up the flashlight, automatically stepping toward the front door. And, before I could push the small, rubbery red button to turn it on, another flash…
And, through the window…
The color of a fig.
I managed to click on the flashlight, shining it through the window. He was pressed so hard against it that I could make out gentle waves in his fur.
I automatically crouched down as I reached for the doorknob. I heard the click as I turned it, and expected this frightened creature to bolt.
As I slowly opened the door, cooing ‘Hey buddy…’, he moved slightly, and then slinked in, stopping right in front of me. Dripping, sitting, searching my eyes with the soft brown-gold of his own.
And the strangest image came into my mind… a children’s book from long ago… a little bird, having fallen from the nest, lost. Asking each animal or thing or piece of machinery he comes across, “Are you my mother?”
Are you the one who will take me in, keep me safe… are you mine?
I blinked, deliberately, to clear the mental imagery of the little bird.
But this dog, this dripping-wet brown fig of a dog, just continued to sit… and his eyes continued to ask his question.
He got up when I did.
Followed me through the glimmering candlelit rooms to the kitchen.
I offered a piece of cheese, which was gently accepted.
And a towel. Yes. Let’s get a towel.
He seemed to enjoy a good toweling… which revealed that he was, in fact, a she.
And as I rubbed her dry, or at least drier, I had a closer look.
She was thin, a few spots of fur missing here and there. A healed cut on her front right pad.
I didn’t recognize her, knowing all the neighborhood dogs well. She was a stranger in these parts, I was sure.
How did you come to be on my porch, on this crazy, dark and blustery night?
And as the storm continued to do what storms to, I found myself padding around softly in socking feet, pulling a bowl for water… a plate for some left over chicken.
And I knew.
I would put up a post on our community Facebook page, and I’d let the local vets know. I’d send a message to the dog recovery volunteers a few towns over.
Found Dog. Halloween night. And a picture, for sure a picture.
But no one would come for her. And I knew this as we settled into bed, in the pitch black of a power-less Halloween night…. she tightly pressed into my back, breathing softly… snoring occasionally. Making me smile.
And no one ever did come for her… my charming Fig.
Who came for me.
And eased me, finally, into a world with a little bit less ‘alone’.
Thanks for readin’.
As always, come on over to Just Ponderin’s Facebook page to comment <3
Note: “Any resemblance to to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.” would be a lie :)) There is a ‘Fig’ in my life.. She is not mine, but weaseled her way into my heart years ago. My friend tells me that, when she was born, she looked like a little fig. I’m a big fan.